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PostCuba's Current Crisis: An Analysis (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 07/19/21 4:04 am)
It has taken me a while to assimilate, understand and comment on what happened in Cuba a few days ago.
It is the first time in my memory that people, at least a large part of its population, have taken to the streets to protest and cry out for freedom, an end to hunger, misery and of a regime sustained through repression and state terrorism. In my opinion, this unusual event has been due to several factors.
First, the economic crisis. For many years now, the Cuban economy has been mainly based on tourism and, to a lesser extent, foreign health services. The pandemic has caused a crisis of such magnitude that its Gross Domestic Product fell last year at 11% or 12% according to its own and questionable official figures. Furthermore, the recent unification of its currencies, and without the help of a ruined Venezuela, has unleashed inflation and food shortages.
It seems also that Trump's sanctions significantly affected this growing crisis, including restrictions on tourism and the flow of remittances from abroad. But it would be a mistake to attribute only to the United States the failure of the economy, which for many years has been deteriorating due to the centralized and collectivized production systems, and the lack of economic freedoms for private initiatives. The few economic reforms in this regard have been of little use, and the currency reforms forced many of its state companies to open their accounts and declare bankruptcy. The truth is that these shortcomings are as old as Castroism itself, a regime ruled by inefficiency, repression and corruption.
Secondly, in my opinion the Internet has been a decisive factor. It has allowed its population, at least young people, to connect with the world and discover that there are different realities and a better quality of life in other places than those the Revolution promised them.
On the other hand, the pandemic itself has shown that the much-celebrated Cuban Health Service has been unable to protect the people, despite the fact that they have developed their own vaccines, none yet approved by the World Health Organization, which have proven to be inefficient or insufficient. In fact I have seen reports that these vaccines have been tried and tested in Venezuela, and people there have rejected them out of fear of the side effects and doubts about their effectiveness. I suppose that the myth of Cuba as a health power is probably disappearing.
Finally, I also believe that the new Cuban generations are most likely no longer sentimentally connected to the myths of the Revolution, and their growing disenchantment has a lot to do with the disappearance of the mythological figures of the Castros, in addition to the lack of charisma and the little respect its current president, Díaz Canel, inspires.
Now, my final reflection is that although these demonstrations might seem to be the beginning of the end of the Cuban regime, I believe that thanks to the brutal and sophisticated system of repression and control, it will still take a long time for a grass-roots movement to consolidate on the island that put an end to the communist regime.
JE comments: Nacho, you've touched on at least three causes of the "perfect storm" facing the Cuban regime--Covid, the passing of the Castro mystique, and the ability of the Internet to allow ordinary citizens to organize. Most likely, the problems all boil down to the economy. In particular, the elimination of the CUC "convertible" peso has led to skyrocketing prices for ordinary Cubans.
What remains to be seen is whether the Díaz Canel government will survive. We asked these same questions back in 1991, over a generation ago. As you point out in your final paragraph, the Cuban regime has proven to be very resilient. But now with Covid, the Internet, and no Castros...